Then-Waterville boys basketball coach Sam Smith outlines a play for his players in this undated photo. Smith is set to take over at Messalonskee next season. (photo courtesy Sam Smith)

As a Thomas College student in 2017, Sam Smith was an intern in the Messalonskee High School athletic department, where he had an up-close-and-personal look at the Eagles’ drive to the Class A North championship, the first regional boys basketball title in school history.

“I said to myself, “Boy, it would be really awesome to come back to coach here,'” Smith recalled Friday.

His wish has come true.

Smith, 27, will be the head coach next season as Messalonskee, where he looks to bring stability to a promising program that has dealt with sideline turnover in recent years.

Smith coached the last three years at Waterville where last season he guided the Panthers to a 5-13 record, the program’s best in seven years. While Smith said he loved his time with the Purple Panthers — he lives in Waterville and will continue to teach at the high school – the opportunity to coach at Messalonskee was too good to pass up. He noted the town of Oakland’s commitment to sports from youth programs onward, something the Naples native and 2014 Lake Region graduate said paralleled his playing days.

“They (the school and parents) put in all this work and they expect success at the highest level, and I came from a community at Lake Region that was like that,” Smith said.


Smith joins a program that has had a revolving door at the coach’s office since Peter McLaughlin left in 2019 after nine years to concentrate on his duties as Messalonskee assistant principal. Jay Dangler (2019-22), Isaiah Brathwaite (2022 offseason only) and McLaughlin (returned in 2022-23 on an interim basis) all took their turns while the Eagles had only one winning record since  they captured the 2017 title.

Then-Waterville boys basketball coach Sam Smith confers with his players in this undated photo. Smith is set to take over at Messalonskee next season. (photo courtesy Sam Smith)

Smith — who said one of the first pieces of coaching advice he ever received was “The key to a successful program is its consistency” — and athletic director Chad Foye hope the new guy will stick around for a while.

“Peter did a great job last year,” Foye said. “We kinda knew it was inevitable that people who are in administration can’t coach, and we looked for ways to make that happen, but we just couldn’t. So when we found out we couldn’t, we moved on, and I think Sam’s going to be a great fit.”

Smith inherits a team that returns the bulk of its talent from last season, when the Eagles (8-12) started 1-8 but went 7-4 the rest of the way, highlighted by a buzzer-beating upset of defending Class A champion Nokomis in the A North quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center.

“I’ve only been working with them for about three weeks, but I’ve never worked with a group that works as hard as they do,” Smith said. “They got a little taste with their win last year against Nokomis. They kinda put it all together.”

And while the players look to put it all together this season, Smith will look to put a halt to the revolving door at the place where it all began for him.

“This is a place I could see myself for a long time,”  Smith said.

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